By Mary Macedo, Neighb News Correspondent
At its meeting on Monday, 4/8, the Fairhaven Selectboard discussed the upcoming Annual and Special Town Meetings on May 4th, and made their recommendations for articles.
The board chose to adopt quite a few articles including Article 4 for the Sewer Capital Fee and Article 5 to amend fiscal year 2019 budget to accommodate for temp work, police and fire department overtime, as well as gas for their vehicles.
The board also supported Article 8 to accommodate funding for HVAC systems at the high school and the senior and recreation center.
The board also adopted Article 10 to transfer money for the sewer treatment plant upgrade to the West Island Treatment Plant.
The Selectboard had a discussion and some disagreement regarding Article 12, which states the need for an increase in salaries and stipends for elected town officals such as the three Selectboard members, Town Clerk, Moderator, Tree Warden, and the Board of Health members.
Board member Robert Espindola immediately disagreed with the article stating he did not believe an increase in salary for the Selectboard members was necessary.
Board member Daniel Freitas said that he was the one that talked to Town Administrator Mark Rees about increasing the salary. Mr. Freitas explained that they, as Selectboard members, pay for a lot of things out of pocket. Mr. Freitas also said that the yearly stipend for the Selectboard of $5200 has not been increased in 30 years.*
He said being on the Selectboard is more than a part-time job, it is being on the phone, answering emails, and visiting people’s homes all the time.
Mr. Freitas said going from $5200 a year to $7500 a year is not asking for too much.
Chairperson Charles Murphy agreed with the increase.
Mr. Espindola explained that no matter what it is, it will be less than minimum wage, and the money is not the reason he is on the board. He said the board makes around the average salary already.
The Selectboard unanimously agreed to adopt the article for the increase in pay for all the town officers except the Selectboard.
The board approved that one on a 2-1 vote, with Mr. Espindola opposed.
The Selectboard than discussed and voted on articles for the Special Town Meeting, also on 5/4.
The first four articles will create a budget and enterprise funds for the three public access TV stations (PEG): Public/Community Access channel 95, Education channel 9, and Government channel 18. The funding will still come from the same surcharge on Comcast cable bills, but now specific budgets must be created for each channel, with the money coming from the enterprise funds.
The Selectboard also approved Article 5 to allocate $32,000 for engineering, architecture, and services for the treatment plant.
The board also discussed Mr. Espindola’s article requiring that all town meetings be televised or recorded. He said that it was important that town officials and committees be transparent with the public.
The board agreed that any open meeting should be televised and the board approved article.
Mr. Rees began discussion on an article that would prevent part-time elected officials from utilizing the town’s health insurance. The Town Administrator and Town Clerk will continue to be eligible for health insurance because they are full time.
Mr. Rees explained that currently the Selectboard decides who receives health insurance. He said the article would remove health insurance for elected officials, except the Town Clerk, as well as people who currently are utilizing the health insurance who will be grandfathered in.
Currently, Selectboard members, Moderator, Board of Health members and Tree Warden can also utilize town employee health insurance.
The article also removes the authority and responsibility of the Selectboard to choose who gets health insurance. Under the article the Selectboard would no longer make those decisions .
Mr. Freitas said that he did not like the Selectboard’s authority getting taken away from them, and that he did not agree with decisions being taken away from the Selectboard.
Mr. Espindola agreed and explained that it was a lot of new information. He said that he thought they needed more time to think about it.
Mr. Rees noted that there is not much time left.
Mr. Freitas said that during the election many residents stated they do not want any more authority taken away from the Selectboard.
What if, 10 years down the road, they want health insurance back, he asked, and the board will not have the authority to make that decision.
Mr. Freitas said that he did support the policy of removing the health insurance, but not the Selectboard losing authority.
Mr. Rees said that the board can discuss creating a different policy.
Mr. Murphy suggested they come up with a new policy before Town Meeting.
The board decided not to vote on the article.
All articles must be approved by Town Meeting members in order to be enacted. The warrants are available at https://www.fairhaven-ma.gov/board-selectmen and choose “Town Meeting Warrant Archives.”
*Editor’s Note: Selectboard member stipends were increased from $10,096.74 ($3365.58 each) to $15,600 ($5200 each) at the 2008 annual town meeting.
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